Food Notes for September 26, 2021

Mojo Jojo Pickles Expanded During the Pandemic

Johwanna Alleyne and her business Mojo Jojo Pickles have had quite the year. The Edmonton-based company, which offers a range of pickled products, preserves, and cocktail supplements, celebrated ten years in business in 2021 and was forced to move several times due to the pandemic. Still, Alleyne has managed to keep Mojo Jojo growing.

After selling the building where her commercial kitchen was located in 2019, Alleyne bounced around a few times until an attractive offer from Kingsway Mall came along. “Kingsway offered us a permanent spot and we opened two weeks before COVID shut us down [in March 2020],” said Alleyne. “And then all I did during COVID was move things.”

After a brief stint working out of the space at Cartago, her husband happened upon a space in the French Quarter at 9627 82 Avenue. In June 2021, they moved their kitchen into one side, and in August, opened up a storefront called Nosh and Quaff on the other. Alleyne shared that the support from neighbouring businesses has been unparalleled. “It’s the best it’s ever been,” said Alleyne. “And it all came out of this crazy journey. It feels like we’re home.”

Nosh and Quaff is the only place in Edmonton to carry the full line of Mojo Jojo products, in addition to canning supplies and cookbooks. It has also begun hosting classes and demos, following all public health guidelines.

Throughout the pandemic, Mojo Jojo has experienced a huge demand for their products, and has barely kept pace with orders. Although its wholesale business through suppliers like Save-On-Foods and Safeway continues to be significant, half of its sales come from fulfilling online orders across Canada. Alleyne credits a confluence of factors for their popularity. “It was the perfect storm,” said Alleyne. “Shopping local, comfort food, quality food, shopping online, cocktails, and cooking more for yourself at home.”

Alleyne said their Caesar bundles have been popular, but she also wishes she could predict which products would peak when. “There was something on TikTok about snacking on pickled garlic,” said Alleyne. “And pickled garlic is what people order in the middle of the night.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Boba Club, a business that started as a home-based business during the pandemic, has opened a brick and mortar storefront at 6538 170 Avenue.
  • Satisfy your poke and bubble tea in one spot with What the Poke and Song Tea at 3354A Gateway Boulevard.
  • Spartans Greek Taverna has taken over the former Vivo space in Windermere (6143 Currents Drive).
  • Community Taps & Pizza is coming to Old Strathcona at 8232 Gateway Boulevard (which previously housed Have Mercy).
  • Soho, a new bar which opened at 11454 Jasper Avenue in early September, now also offers pizza by the slice.
  • Cocktail Culture, Edmonton’s “only fully stocked cocktail supply store for the home bar and professional bartender” is opening soon at 10642 82 Avenue.

Upcoming Events

  • Learn how to make a vegan pad Thai with Roni Zaide through Edmonton Public Library’s Sustainable Kitchen online series. The October 2, 2021 class is free but requires registration.

Local News

What I Ate

  • We’ve been meaning to take advantage of the enticing Dalla patio for a while now, and finally did so on Friday! It was a beautiful evening to enjoy some crostinis and pasta (in my case, the Di Bosco with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and chicken). Emily loved her kid-sized pomodoro pasta.
  • Dalla

Di Bosco from Dalla

  • Mack and I dined on the beautiful rootfop patio at La Petite Iza to celebrate our anniversary. Staff were great with checking for vaccination cards, and we felt safe eating outdoors. As with my previous experience, service and the meal was great, capped off with a lovely sour cherry clafoutis.
  • La Petite Iza

Clafoutis from La Petite Iza

  • It was our first visit to Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm over the weekend, and Emily had a great time. It was also fun to cap our experience by picking a pumpkin out of their expansive patch.
  • Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm

Found our pumpkin!

Food Notes for September 20, 2021

Restrictions Exemption Program Now In Effect In Restaurants

The provincial government introduced additional public health measures last week in an attempt to curb COVID-19 rates in Alberta, including the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) that applies to all restaurants and bars, effective September 20, 2021.

The program requires that all patrons over the age of 12 provide proof of vaccination (one dose is acceptable until October 25), proof of a negative rapid test, or documentation of a medical exemption in order to dine indoors. An apparent loophole in the program is that staff themselves are not required to be vaccinated.

Businesses that choose not to participate in the program will be barred from offering indoor dining, will need to restrict outdoor dining to a maximum of 6 persons (one household or two individuals who live alone), and end liquor sales by 10pm.

Over the weekend, many restaurants began sharing their plans based on the new restrictions, and it appears the vast majority will implement the program. Some restaurants, such as Fife N Dekel and Pho Tau Bay, have delayed indoor dining until October. Others, including Rosewood Foods, RGE RD, and Bundok, have announced that they will be participating in the program, while volunteering the information that all of their staff have been vaccinated. Restaurants such as Say Uncle have committed to requiring their staff to be fully vaccinated.

These hospitality businesses join Fleisch, EvoWonderLounge, and Arcadia Brewing Co. who mandated vaccine passports dating back to August and early September.

Passport Eats is one website that has popped up, offering to be a database of restaurants that have opted in to the Restrictions Exemption Program. However, because information is crowd-sourced, the information may not be accurate or complete.

One of the more prominent businesses to publicly opt-out of the Restrictions Exemption Program so far is KB & Co. It is yet to be determined if business choosing not to participate will see a decline in sales.

COVID-19-related News

  • Earth’s General Store shared that their continued mask mandate throughout the pandemic has lost them many customers.

Openings

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Pizza 73 plans to offer beer across all of its Western Canadian shops by next summer. Beer is currently available at nearly two dozen locations in Alberta.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • We picked up a meal from Viphalay to end a busy week. Emily lay claim to most of the spring rolls.
  • Viphalay

Pad Thai and green curry from Viphalay

  • For the last Al Fresco Market of the season, Mack and I snacked on a couple of Whoanuts. Although it was tasty enough, because of the sweetness and the shape, it made me long for something that used to be available on 104 Street in the summers – a warm liege waffle from Eva Sweet.
  • Whoanuts

Vanilla honey dip

Food Notes for September 13, 2021

Third Edmonton Hospitality Business to Require Proof of Vaccination

Arcadia Brewing Co. is the third Edmonton hospitality business to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter. Fleisch was the first to require proof for guests seeking to dine indoors back in August, and bar EvoWonderLounge mandated proof of vaccination last week.

Arcadia made the announcement on September 7, 2021:

“As of September 20th 2021 customers entering Arcadia Brewing Co will require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test result within 48 hours of entering Arcadia…This decision was not made easily and we ask you to please be kind to our staff and please respect our decision.”

Since sharing the policy, Arcadia has received some negative feedback online, but noted that the majority of feedback has been positive. Arcadia co-owner Darren McGeown said:

“Generally, the support has been incredible from people either coming in or messaging me…The past few days people have come in – especially front line workers – have reached out and showed their appreciation, which means a lot to me.”

Venues Metro Cinema, The Starlite Room, and the Winspear Centre also announced similar proof of vaccine requirements.

The Alberta Hospitality Association is currently surveying its members before releasing a stance on vaccine passports.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Brokin Yolk’s first Edmonton location is now open at 1641 102 Street in South Edmonton Common.
  • Catch of the Week, a fish market, will be opening up in the former Bateman’s IGA at 5120 122 Street.
  • Love Pizza will be opening up their first Leduc location at #110, 5411 Discovery Way.
  • Sorrentino’s will be opening in the former Bistecca location in Century Park (2345 111 Street).
  • Another location of Chachi’s is now open at MacEwan University.
  • Secret Pizza opened up earlier this summer in the former Artisti Pizzeria location in Holland Plaza (11998 109A Avenue).

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Sorrentino’s annual Mushroom Harvest event runs the month of September, with mushroom dishes featured on the menu and wine dinners.
  • The Festa Dell’uva, or the Little Italy Grape Festival, is returning to Giovanni Caboto Park on September 19, 2021 from 1-5pm. Expect grape stomping, food, and a wine garden, among other activities.
  • JustCook is hosting their opening VIP event at the 5th St Food Hall on October 2, 2021. Tickets are $100 per person.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

What I Ate

  • We had a great time in Jasper last week! One of our highlights was visiting the Jasper Farmers’ Market. Only the early birds snagged eggs from Stonepost Farms, but we picked up some bagels from Coco’s Cafe and coffee from Vale Coffee Roasters.
  • Jasper Farmers’ Market

Emily loves bagels!

  • As with our other staycations during the pandemic, we brought most of our own food, but did allow ourselves one patio meal at Jasper Brewing Co. We really appreciated the protected patios set up by the municipality, with concrete barricades carving out additional space in the roadways.
  • Jasper Brewing Co.

Fish and chips from Jasper Brewing Co.

  • Mack and I also lunched at Craft Beer Market’s refreshed rooftop patio – it’s hard to say how many fair weather days remain for outdoor dining, so it was nice to take advantage of a sunny afternoon. The half-price Monday pizza special was a nice bonus!
  • Craft Beer Market

Pizzas from Craft Beer Market

Food Notes for September 6, 2021

The Tomato Turns 25

The Tomato, Edmonton’s longest-standing food publication, celebrates a milestone this month as it reaches twenty-five years in business. Their first issue debuted in September/October 1996.

Founder and editor Mary Bailey remembers those early days, driven by a perspective gained from inside the food scene itself. “When I started, I was from hospitality and in the wine business and knew nothing about publishing magazine,” said Bailey. “I really liked City Palate in Calgary and thought, ‘We need to have one of those in Edmonton.’”

At that time, City Palate was a publication focused on Calgary’s food culture that began in 1993. Bailey arranged to co-publish an Edmonton edition for a few years, paying them a royalty to use the City Palate name. Eventually, realizing that the shared identity wasn’t necessary, Bailey rebranded the magazine as The Tomato in 2010 (City Palate folded in 2019). “Funny thing about it was when we did it, everything – advertising, readership – went up,” said Bailey. “That taught me a big lesson: you have to reinvent yourself every few years because it felt new and fresh.”

That same year, they also started publishing content online, but Bailey acknowledges that much of her readership continues to be driven by their print copies. “I think people look for different things in different places,” said Bailey. “I was under the impression that people under 30 didn’t pick up publications but so many of my readers tell me they like the print edition because they can’t make a recipe and have it on their phone at the same time.”

The cover of the September/October 2021 issue features the images of twelve past covers, and in Bailey’s editorial note, indicates that they “selected cover images of many of the people who make our food scene what it is.” When asked how it is possible that no BIPOC persons were included, Bailey indicated that it was not intentional. “I don’t think we’ve ignored the diverse cultures in terms of food,” said Bailey. “It’s in our pages and not on the covers. We’re going to try really hard to do better.”

As for the future of the magazine, Bailey believes The Tomato will last because she continues to be excited about Edmonton’s food scene. “I’m a chronicler of the food scene,” said Bailey. “I think of my job as finding the people in the business that are doing interesting things. We will continue on talking about food, because food always changes.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Mojo Jojo Pickles has a new home – their storefront Nosh and Quaff is open at 9627 82 Avenue. They had a shop in Kingsway that was open for two weeks before the pandemic shut them down.
  • JustCook Kitchens is gearing up to launch their 5th Street Food Hall concept in September. One of the vendors, Seitans, has released their menu in anticipation of the opening.
  • Gangnam Street Food and Coco Fried Chicken will be opening a location in Windermere (1109 Windermere Way SW).
  • Flame Pizzeria is opening a second location at 989 Tamarack Way.

Upcoming Events

  • The 124 Street Business Association is hosting Flavours of 124 Street on Fridays and Saturdays beginning September 10 and running until September 25, 2021. Participating restaurants will be offering menu specials.
  • The Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts is hosting a Fall Harvest Market on September 18, 2021 at the Strathearn Centre with a variety of frozen and fresh food vendors.
  • The next NOSH Food Fest featuring a variety of food vendors will be held on September 18-19, 2021 at the Strathcona County Community Centre in Sherwood Park.
  • Dining in the Dark guests will eat their meals blindfolded for a different experience. Tickets for the October events start at $80.
  • Save the date for the annual Pizza Pig Out event in support of KidSport, to be held on October 8, 2021.

Local News

What I Ate

  • In between errands on Saturday Mack and I grabbed some coffee from Roasti in Sherwood Park and happened upon a Chamber Orchestra of Edmonton concert in a nearby park. It was a nice way to enjoy our drinks outdoors!
  • Roasti Coffee

Roasti Coffee in the ‘Park

  • We also stopped by Bountiful Farmers’ Market for lunch (they have an outdoor eating area set up). It was absolutely bustling – and though it will always pain me that the market is not situated in a residential or retail area (meaning that most shoppers are reliant on personal vehicles for transportation), they are clearly doing something the longer-standing markets are not. The tacos from Frida were great, and definitely makes me want to check out their storefront on 124 Street.
  • Frida

Frida at Bountiful Market

Food Notes for August 30, 2021

DRTY Brings Filipino Ice Cream to Edmonton

The profile of Filipino cuisine has continued to rise in Edmonton over the last several years, thanks to upstart businesses like Filistix, Kanto 98 St., and Yelo’d, as well as with the arrival of Filipino fast food giant Jollibee in 2019. New food business DRTY Ice Cream is adding an additional cultural touchstone for the local Filipino community with their take on sorbetes, or Filipino ice cream.

DRTY (pronounced “dirty”) is the brainchild of Abby Ulanimo, who is half-Filipino and was born and raised in Canada. In 2019, she visited the Philippines for the first time and had a reverential initial encounter with a sorbetero (ice cream vendor). “You can imagine it’s plus forty degrees, you’re so hot, and you hear this bell and when you turn around this guy has delicious frozen treats,” said Ulanimo. “The sorbetero brings those feelings of relief and joy.”

Ulanimo explained that sorbetes are typically made with coconut milk or cassava, as ingredients typically found in ice cream like eggs, milk, and cream are expensive in the Philippines. Sorbeteros, lacking access to refrigeration, would make fresh batches of sorbetes by hand daily, sold out of roving wooden carts.

Through its development, DRTY has gone through some recipe changes to adapt to the different context. “When we first started, we were using a cassava base,” said Ulanimo. “But then we found that cassava flour cannot hold its integrity in the freezer. This wouldn’t be a problem in the Philippines because their batches are never frozen overnight.” DRTY has since adapted to using plant-based stabilizers in most of their ice cream flavours.

DRTY’s name is inspired by the history of sorbetes in the Philippines. Ulanimo shared that when larger corporations began stocking grocery stores with their ice cream, those companies made efforts to brand sorbetes as “dirty” to discourage people from patronizing sorbeteros. “Our name is such a conversation starter,” said Ulanimo. “We are very passionate about highlighting the tradition and the culture behind sorbetes. If I can teach someone something, my job is done.”

The names of their flavours are puns in Tagalog (the primary language spoken in the Philippines) as a means to appeal to their target Filipino demographic. But DRTY also showcases non-traditional sorbetes flavours. The flavour “As In Asin” marries a ubiquitous Fillipino coconut jam with salted caramel. “Mangga Gala” replicates a common cake-like dessert many who grew up in the Philippines would be familiar with. “Not everyone has electricity or an oven in the Philippines,” said Ulanimo. “So if they couldn’t afford a cake or couldn’t bake a cake they would layer graham crackers, condensed milk, and mangoes, and the graham crackers would absorb the moisture and act like a cake. I want people to taste it and remind them of something they had while they were sitting in their grandmother’s lap.”

Last year, friends of hers who owned Intent Coffee offered her the chance to make her dreams of creating sorbetes in Edmonton a reality by offering to stock her product. Ulanimo worked as a marketing coordinator by day, and in December 2020 started making ice cream every night in a commercial kitchen until 1am to meet the increasing demand. In June of this year, she finally quit her full-time job and brought on her sister, Emmalyn Ulanimo-Bulan, to help.

While Intent Coffee closed earlier this summer, DRTY is available in single-serving cups and pints at the Shoe Shine Shack in the Mercer Warehouse, and Filipino shop 3J Variety Store, as well as at various markets around the city. They have also found success in supplying customized cups to people throwing birthday parties, bridal showers, or other special events.

Long term, Ulamino wants to see a fleet of DRTY carts servicing the city. “We want to offer that experience of scooping the ice cream and ringing the bell,” said Ulamino. “Bringing sorbeteros carts to Canada would just tie the experience together.”

COVID-19-related News

  • City Council voted in favour of reinstating the indoor mask bylaw, effective September 3, 2021. This would include masking to enter a restaurant, but once seated, patrons could unmask to eat or drink.

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Shake, Stir & Strainbow runs from August 13-September 3, 2021 with participating restaurant and bars donating $1 from each feature cocktail to the Skipping Stone Foundations, a charity that supports trans and gender-diverse youth. In Edmonton, Central Social Hall, Three Vikings, and Tres Carnales Rostizado are participating.
  • Le Burger Week runs from September 1-14, 2021, when participating restaurants will offer special burger creations.
  • The Alberta Avenue Business Improvement Area is hosting Vybz on 118 on September 4, 2021 with Jamaican, Italian, Vietnamese food on 119 Avenue between 83-84 Streets from 11am-6pm.
  • Root 107 is playing host to the Cocktails & Jerk Festival on September 5 from 11am-9pm. Expect Caribbean street food and non-alcoholic and alcoholic cocktails along with live music.
  • The Chinese Benevolent Association is organizing another long table feast in the Quarters on September 19, 2021 to be attended by vulnerable community members and low-income seniors. They’re looking for volunteers and donations.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I had a lovely meal with a friend on Friday on La Petite Iza’s beautiful rooftop patio. I loved the Parisian gnocchi in Dijon creme, and the service was great. I hope to be back again soon!
  • La Petit Iza

Parisian gnocchi from La Petite Iza

Food Notes for August 23, 2021

New Bakery Brings Baked Goods to Riverdale

The folks behind Riverdale’s Little Brick are set to open the doors to a new neighbouring business on August 26, 2021. Bread & Butter Bakery is the newest sibling establishment from the River Valley Company, who has participated in the operation of Little Brick since 2015.

Their vision for the river valley is bold, “to create an international tourist destination with beautifully unique buildings, and to provide world-class hospitality businesses and tourist-centric activities for people from all over the world to come to Edmonton to enjoy.” With the addition of the Umphreville Block at 10158 90 Street, which is home not only to Bread & Butter but also a forthcoming pub called Dogpatch, the River Valley Company is making strides towards creating a destination in Riverdale.

Ange Minor, the Bakery Manager at Bread & Butter is keen for people to finally taste the hard work she has put into developing the launch over the last year. “I always wanted to have more of savoury-focused shop, and the wonderful owners [at the River Valley Company] gave me complete free reign of how I wanted to do that,” said Minor. “All the recipes have been tested and tested until they became absolute perfection.”

She feels the savoury nature of the Bread & Butter sets it apart from others in Edmonton’s bakery scene. “We will have a beautiful bread wall stocked full of a variety of from scratch, baked fresh daily breads,” said Minor. “From focaccia, signature sourdough, brioche loaves, multigrain loaves, gluten-free focaccia, and savoury pastries like scones and croissants.”

Those hoping to find the shop’s namesake “butter” for sale will not be disappointed, either. “Our bakery cooler will be filled with signature butters, which are meant to be eaten together with our breads to make a perfect pair,” said Minor.

Bread & Butter will also satisfy those with a sweet tooth, with treats such as brioche Danishes and gluten-free fudgy brownies and granola bars.

Although Bread & Butter won’t have any seating, they will offer drip coffee and locally-sourced tea along with cold drinks, ideal for those looking to grab a snack to accompany a walk through the adjacent river valley paths. The bakery will be open 9am-5pm daily.

Complementing its sister establishments, Bread & Butter will also be supplying scones, cookies, and muffins to Little Brick, and when Dogpatch opens, they will be featuring Bread & Butter-made breads and pies.

Umphreville Block was first announced back in early 2019, so it has been a long time coming for Bread & Butter. “I know how long the neighbourhood has been waiting for a bakery, so my team & I are very excited to serve our neighbours,” said Minor. “But we are also excited to serve the whole city we love!”

Openings

  • Wilfred’s, which now also houses a Made by Marcus, has re-opened with a new menu focusing on “handhelds”.
  • China Marble Restaurant is now open in the former Pagolac storefront in Chinatown (10566 97 Street).
  • Eat Jamaican is now open at 9518 Ellerslie Road.
  • The Little Spot, located at 11907 Jasper Avenue, stocks a variety of locally-made products, including Battista’s Calzones, and Da Capo Coffee.
  • Lost Dogs is a ghost kitchen operating out of Campio Brewing, serving up hot dogs and sides, with 50 cents from each hot dog supporting the Edmonton Humane Society.
  • New York’s The Halal Guys will have franchise locations across Canada, including in Edmonton. A location already opened in Calgary in July.

Closures

  • The long-standing Starbucks at Jasper Avenue and 109 Street is now closed.

Upcoming Events

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

What I Ate

  • Our neighbourhood burger joint Wayback Burgers had a great special on in conjunction with the Al Fresco Market on Saturday, so we picked up some take-out for a picnic at the Legislature Grounds with some friends.
  • Wayback Burgers

Wayback Burgers picnic

  • On Sunday, we ventured out in the drizzly conditions to take in an Edmonton Jazz Festival’s Jazz Around Town performance at The Backyard, and enjoyed a Korean BBQ pork wrap from Coast Lunch Box. It’s great to see this otherwise desolate corner animated, but it will be interesting to see how they transform it for the winter.
  • Coast Food Truck

Coast Lunch Box’s Korean BBQ pork wrap

Food Notes for August 16, 2021

Wine Bars Liven Up Whyte Avenue

Edmonton might be seeing a resurgence in wine bars. Darling, a wine bar focused on natural wines opened in July, while Culina shared news that they will be re-opening their much loved Bibo later this year.

Darling is the brainchild of Justin and Derrick Jones. Justin is an industry veteran, and is currently the general manager of hospitality at Biera. It was there that he was introduced to the idea of natural wines, as the restaurant wanted to ensure the drinks matched the quality of the food they were pairing. “Natural wines involve no intervention,” said Jones. “It’s making wine but not messing with it.” Jones said mass wine producers prioritize consistency above all else, and as a result, add flavouring components, dye, or animal products to ensure bottles taste similar year over year. For Jones, the beauty of wine is to enjoy the nuances imparted by the inconsistencies of farming. “This really is not a new concept,” said Jones. “It dates way back in Europe, but is now becoming a craze in Canada.”

Jones is passionate about sharing his love of natural wines with guests, and so far, Darling’s customers have run the spectrum of those eager to learn to more seasoned wine drinkers keen to see their inventory. “That’s why it’s fun,” said Jones. “We are not pouring wine and walking away – we want to share the story of the winemaker.”

Justin and Derrick had been thinking about opening a permanent restaurant before the pandemic, but things were put on hold in 2020. However, they were approached by their friends, the owners of Take Care Cafe and Weekly Trim True, who asked if they wanted to test the waters in their space in the evenings. As a result, Darling is currently a pop-up, and runs in the cafe and salon from Thursdays to Sundays from 7-11pm. They have indoor and outdoor seating, but Jones has a preference for the latter. “The courtyard is the best part, with 32 seats in the back under the apple tree,” said Jones. “It’s a nice little oasis.”

Food-wise, without proper ventilation in the current space, they are restricted from preparing hot foods. Still, Jones is happy about the curated menu of locally sourced items, which include breads from Brio Bakery and sustainable mussels from Prince Edward Island. “We don’t have complicated items,” said Jones. “Just high quality and tasty things to pair with wine.”

Since Darling opened in July, the community has embraced their concept, and Jones is hoping to find a more permanent home before the snow flies, with the goal to have a full restaurant with natural wines. As he was born and raised in the Ritchie area, he hopes to secure a space in the same community.

Further west down Whyte Avenue is where Bibo will re-open as early as October (Bibo’s Mill Creek location closed back in 2016). Owner Brad Lazarenko was approached by Beljan Development, developers of the Oliver Exchange Building which houses his Culina To Go location. They wanted him to resurrect Bibo in the lobby of the Old Strathcona Hotel. “We’re working on the concept together,” said Lazarenko. “They have a vision for an atrium lobby bar, with very open, high ceilings.” Lazarenko said the plan is for the space to be a café by day, and wine bar at night.

People shouldn’t expect the same Bibo, however. “The aesthetic will be different,” said Lazarenko. “It’s not going to be the same menu.” He teases that Japanese street foods will make an appearance, along with cheese and charcuterie and the option of picking up some Culina To Go-inspired grab-and-go items. “It’s not going to be a place to get big meals,” said Lazarenko. “It will be a place you go before or after dinner.”

For Lazarenko, this shift into Old Strathcona came as a surprise, but the opportunity to work with Beljan again was too good to pass up. “Ten years ago I never would have come to Whyte Avenue, but the area is going through a renaissance,” said Lazarenko. “It has a good energy about it, with good restaurants and lots of good food.”

Back at Darling, Jones agrees that things seem to be building for the area, and he couldn’t be happier to hear that Bibo will join their neck of the woods soon. “It’s amazing because I remember going to Bibo right before it closed,” said Jones. “It was the coolest place with a really smart sommelier who poured me the perfect glass of wine. It’s time to bring back the wine on Whyte Avenue!”

Openings

Closures

  • After nearly 10 years in operation, Mercer Tavern is closing its doors on August 31, 2021. It will be replaced by Calgary-based Home and Away in time for the start of the hockey season.

Upcoming Events

  • You Need a BBQ in Sherwood Park is celebrating its one year anniversary with the Bangers & Beer YEG Sausage Battle on September 12, 2021. Butchers and chefs will compete for your vote for the best sausage, and ticket proceeds will go towards funding Team Canada’s trip to the World Butcher Challenge in Sacramento. Tickets are $25 plus fees.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

Food Notes for August 9, 2021

Fleisch Reopening Indoor Dining to Vaccinated Guests

Fleisch announced on Friday that they will be expanding into the former Cartago space to offer “elevated pub food, craft beer and cocktails” at The Bar at Fleisch. Along with that news, they shared that after closing dine-in services for nearly ten months, they will finally reopen their doors for indoor dining – but only to those who can prove that they’ve received both COVID-19 vaccine doses.

“We will be requiring proof of FULL vaccination (both shots) to dine indoors.  This is non-negotiable and is part of our commitment to keep both our staff and the greater community safe.  We understand that this may be controversial for some, but making this choice was easy for us. Community > everything, and we will continue to do our part in prioritizing your health.”

Fleisch will not require proof of vaccination to dine on their patio, and they will continue to offer take-out and delivery as well.

Earlier this summer, Fleisch had posted that their timeline for re-opening indoor dining would be tied to the date at which their staff acquired full immunity. Co-owner Katy Ingraham has also been a strong advocate for better ventilation and safety measures for hospitality staff throughout the pandemic. Ingraham declined a request to be interviewed for this story.

Although most of the social media response has been positive, there have been some notable detractors, such as comments from Marnie Ashcroft, the founder of Glow Juicery.

Legal precedent in Canada has not yet been established, particularly as the idea of vaccine passports for COVID-19 are new. But legal experts indicate that accommodations may need to be made in certain circumstances.

“There is nothing legally preventing businesses from requiring proof of vaccine. But the human rights code basically demands that people be accommodated if they have a health reason (for why) they can’t be vaccinated,” said Lorain Hardcastle, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary.

An opening date for The Bar at Fleisch has not yet been announced.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • A second location of the international chain Earl of Sandwich is coming to 109 Street and Jasper Avenue.

Upcoming Events

  • A dozen restaurants are participating in the inaugural YEG Hot Dog Fest, run by Meals on Wheels. $1.50 from every hot dog creation sold at restaurants will go directly towards the charity. The festival runs the entire month of August.
  • 16 Edmonton-area restaurants are participating in Alberta on the Plate, with special menus showcasing local ingredients. The festival runs from August 6-15, 2021.
  • Spruce Grove is hosting the Grove Rotary Ribfest, from August 13-15, 2021.
  • Sturgeon County is offering Summer in Sturgeon Picnic Boxes that can be pre-ordered for pick-up at various parks from August 13-22, 2021.
  • Savour Strathcona returns on September 12, 2021 to Strathcona County Community Centre Agora. Over a dozen restaurants and food trucks will be on hand.

Reviews

  • Sharon reviewed the unique Vietnamese food offerings at Co Chin Saigon in Chinatown, and also ate her way through the menu at Caffe Sole.

Local News

What I Ate

  • At the end of July, as a part of Linda’s month-long birthday celebrations, I took part in one of Pei Pei Chei Ow’s cooking classes. I learned how to make Nohtawey’s potato pancakes and a fermented berry drink called Meenishapiy. Chef Scott Iserhoff incorporated history and personal stories throughout the one hour session, so the time went by quickly! The online classes are available to be booked with groups of at least 5 participants.

Scott2Chef Scott Iserhoff of Pei Pei Chei Ow

  • I met up with some friends last weekend for brunch in Old Strathcona. Our original destination was Pip, but with an hour long wait, we ended up next door at The Next Act instead. The patio was great, with an awning to shield us from the threatening clouds, and service that was friendly and relaxed. I loved the breakfast poutine – who can ever pass up tater tots?
  • Next Act

Breakfast poutine from The Next Act

  • Our patio plans on Friday were dashed by the weather, but it led to us finally trying Rub’d, a ghost kitchen operating out of Crash Hotel. The brisket sandwich was great, and the huge portion of fries remained crispy even after our walk home (I’m assuming this is by design for a take-out/delivery-only joint). I’d definitely be open to ordering it again!
  • Rub’d

Brisket sandwich and fries from Rub’d

  • Mack and I had an abbreviated date night at Partake. It was ultimately cut short due to rain, but not before we enjoyed some delicious cocktails and appetizers on their beautiful back patio. We ended up ordering the croque mon soubise and poutine to go, so we still had the chance to satisfy that comfort food craving.
  • Partake

No. 11 cocktail from Partake

Food Notes for August 2, 2021

Heritage Festival Returns

After being forced to cancel the event in 2020, the Edmonton Heritage Festival returned to Hawrelak Park over the weekend. Introducing timed ticket attendance was one way organizers responded to the pandemic, in addition to eliminating food tickets in favour of direct contactless sales at pavilions. In spite of the changes, the event met its target audience of half a normal year’s turnout.

I was on the grounds on Saturday as a part of the team responsible for judging the food. Alongside head judge Phil Wilson, Councillor Andrew Knack and his wife Jamie, Lorraine Ellis from Partake, and Aditya Raghavan of Fleur Jaune Cheese, we were tasked with eating our way through over thirty pavilions that were offering food this year.

With the delayed green light for this year’s festival, many countries normally represented at the event weren’t present, let alone able to offer food. As such, all of the cultural associations and their volunteers deserve a huge kudos for even getting food on the menu in such trying times.

I was also initially concerned by the concepts of judging and ranking food associated with a specific country or culture. For many of the participating pavilions, the dishes served represent traditions and tastes that are meant to be enjoyed as a window to their world, and not critiqued.

Thankfully, the criteria we were directed to use took into account more than just the food itself, but also the enthusiasm of the volunteers serving the items, the efficiency of the food service, and even signage.

Our process involved the group splitting into two smaller teams, with each assigned to sample fare from half the pavilions. After that, we met up to share our top three pavilions, and headed off separately one last time to try the other team’s short list. The final list came together after discussions in the large group again.

This experience was great for me personally because over the years, it’s been a routine for me to indulge in specific items from the same pavilions – stewed lentils and injera from Eritrea and langos from Hungary, to name a few. But with neither of those countries represented this year, and the wide expanse of pavilions I did have the opportunity to sample, I can safely say I now have several new favourites!

The lokma from Azerbaijan in particular were a lovely surprise, the freshly fried doughnuts were coated in a floral syrup that elevated each bite.

Thanks again to Phil for the invitation to be a part of the judging team, and to all of the staff and volunteers behind the Heritage Festival to bring back the event this year.

Openings

  • There’s a new wine bar in town that’s now open called Darling, “where Natural Wine flows to old school beats”. It’s located at 9621 82 Avenue.
  • Sharon found a new spot specializing in Yunnan rice noodles called Shimiaodao Yunnan Rice Noodle at 8613 109 Street.
  • Fleisch will be expanding into the former Cartago space with The Bar at Fleisch.
  • Downtown Bistro will be opening in the space formerly occupied by the Free Press Bistro (10024 104 Street).
  • Oodle Noodle’s fourteenth location will be opening soon at Kingsway Mall.

Closures

Local News

What I Ate

  • We ended up spending quite a bit of time at Taste of Edmonton this week, one night with tickets purchased ourselves, and another to use up tickets we won through Coast Lunch Box! We had some great eats throughout, including everything from Pikante, the Coast Lunch Box wrap, and gelato from Little Bear.
Taste of Edmonton
A very small part of our Taste of Edmonton spread
  • Over the weekend, we were in the area so it was a good excuse to finally check out Tito’s Patio and the Botanist’s Garden, run by Geoscapes Events at Snow Valley. The reclaimed pallet furniture and planters were a lovely sight, and Emily loved exploring the surrounding green space. The food menu was somewhat confusing to navigate, but it was very value-forward. I enjoyed my pulled pork sandwich, which could have easily fed two people! The Patio and Garden are open Thursday to Sunday from 12-8pm until the end of August.
Tito’s Patio
Pulled pork sandwich and house salad from Tito’s Patio

Recap: MilkCrate’s Feast in the Field

The last food event I attended was in mid-March 2020. COVID-19 seemed ominous, but we knew so little about it at the time. Over the last 16 months, food events have been postponed, outright cancelled, shifted outdoors, or scaled down to accommodate members of a single household only. Since then, I haven’t attended any food events, and also haven’t yet felt comfortable dining indoors at a restaurant. Having embraced the beauty of eating al fresco in that time, I was thus enthralled to accept the invitation to MIlkCrate’s Feast in the Field event that occurred last weekend.

MilkCrate, in partnership with Taste Alberta, organized an outdoor dining event at Allam Farms, located near Fort Saskatchewan. The food highlighted locally-sourced pork, dairy products, pulses, and canola through a comfort-driven menu. We were told the event sold out almost immediately.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Chef Steven Brochu and the sight of a whole pig roasting on a spit – the definite makings of a tasty evening.

Feast in the Field

Chef Steve Brochu and the pig

Tables had been set up on the freshly shorn wheat field, though Allam Farms also grows pulses and hemp, among other crops. The beautiful skies contributed to the stunning backdrop, one that everyone would ultimately take advantage of for (what else?) Instagram-worthy photos.

Feast in the Field

Feast in the field

I’ll also say that because I haven’t dined indoors in a significant period of time, it was particularly wonderful to be able to be within eyesight of the kitchen. We were able to see Chef Brochu and his team assemble everything just yards away.

Feast in the Field

MilkCrate staff at work

The meal began with MilkCrate’s house sourdough, but everyone was holding out for the main event.

Feast in the Field

Sourdough

The platters did not disappoint. Laden with juicy fire-cooked whole hog, smoked lentils and biscuits, lentil cakes, roasted vegetables, and field greens dressed with a smoked Saskatoon berry and canola vinaigrette, there was more than enough food for everyone. MilkCrate’s house sauces were a great accompaniment to the meat and lentil cakes, but I was most impressed with the lentils and biscuits.

Feast in the Field

Family-style platter

For dessert, continuing with the pig and family-style theme, we were provided with ice cream cookie troughs made up of house-made cookies, canola oil cake, and scoops of Yelo’d ice cream. It was the best kind of indulgence.

Feast in the Field

Ice cream cookie troughs

Mack and I were fortunate to dine with a table of familiar food companions – Linda, Sharman, Diane, and Carrie from Taste Alberta. It made the experience of dining out and with folks from outside our bubble a relaxing one.

Sharon & Mack

Night out without Emily!

Given its success, MilkCrate and Taste Alberta are open to replicating the event in the future. I do hope they are able to do so – more people should have the opportunity to enjoy Chef Brochu’s food in such settings, an escape from the city and a reminder of where our food comes from.

Feast in the Field

Team MilkCrate

Thanks again to MilkCrate and Taste Alberta for having us!